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Tuesday
Mar022010

A.I. Gone for Good?

AP Photo / Matt SlocumPhiladelphia 76ers President and General Manager Ed Stefanski announced Tuesday that Allen Iverson would not return to the team for the remainder of the season.  Iverson had not played for much of the last month, spending time in Atlanta with his family and four-year-old daughter, who has an undisclosed illness.

This is not the first time that Iverson has left a team for personal reasons, but it's the first time those reasons are legitimately beyond his own interest.  I certainly don't hold it against him for needing to be there for his family, but the larger question is, why was he even still in the league? 

There was no question that Iverson's best days as a ballplayer were behind him.  He couldn't make it work with Denver or Detroit, and who knows why he strung along the poor Memphis Grizzlies for 3 days this year, when every analyst knew his best fit would have been with the Charlotte Bobcats.

 

If family matters were the reason he left the Grizzlies, as it seems they were, why did he come back to play in Philadelphia?  It makes sense in one respect, because the people of Philadelphia have always held a spot in their heart for the franchise player, and number 3 jerseys are still a common sight at the Wachovia Center.  He was even voted to be an Eastern Conference starter in the All Star Game, though did not play. 

Regardless of the contract juggling and city hopping, did Iverson's skills help any of these teams?  The 76ers have been awful with or without him, yet center Samuel Dalembert said, "He was being a leader.  He was different." 

That was the leading problem with Iverson the past several years, not just his dwindling speed or arthritic knee, but his unwillingness to relinquish a starting spot and accept a role as a bench player.  We may never know whether that attitude was starting to change, but if he has played his last game, he did it on his terms. 

So what is Allen Iverson's NBA legacy?  He started as Rookie of the Year in 1997, is an 11-time All-Star, named MVP in 2001, the year he led the 76ers to the Finals, and is sixth all-time in scoring average. 

Do we take away his once-brilliant skills, his fiery passion, his unwillingness to compromise?  For me it's all of that and more, because there's no doubt he was a star, and it would be more than fitting if his career ended in the city that he loved, that has always loved him. 

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